Last week, conservationists won what should be a decisive victory in the battle over the Roadless Rule. The rule bars development on nearly 60 acres of pristine national forest. On Thursday, 10th Circuit Denver Court denied the Colorado Mining Association and State of Wyoming’s request for a rehearing. The court had previously overruled a Wyoming judge’s decision to block implementation of the rule, finding that the state had abused judicial discretion.
In 2001, after three years of research and a record 1.6 million public comments, President Clinton signed the Roadless Rule order barring development of nearly 60 million acres of pristine national forest. Since 2005, the embattled rule has survived attempts by former President Bush, states, and extraction industries to limit its power, its opponents citing states rights, resource development, and wildfire risks.
Duane Short of the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance hopes that the controversy won’t go any further. "In terms of public opinion," says Short, "the roadless rule has all the support that should be required to keep it in place. So we would like to think that the will of the people still has some meaning."
But opponents continue to push for access. Wyoming Governor Matt Mead says he’s consulting with the attorney general on next steps. "Whether we take additional legal action or we just continue to try to do our best to work through the court’s decision," says Mead.
Short says the national public lands at stake are rare public jewels. President Obama will decide next month whether states can create their own rules, and a Republican-sponsored bill in congress would gut the rule entirely.